Work is still that thing which my father went to in the mornings with a packed lunch and flask, freshly shaved, smelling of soap and would finish just before tea when he arrived back home. I’ll always associate that acrid bo smell and rolled up sleeves with fatherhood. He was a sparks in Inchicore and was one of the few to witness Brendan Behan bellowing like a bull outside some early house. I remember his 50 cc Lambretta with bicycle pedals, springy single saddle, and huge flared gloves. No helmet or goggles though. He bought it for £25, second hand and it was the better option to a couple of early morning bus journeys. He blames it now for his arthur.
The man next door was a painter with ladders and pots in his garage and a roof rack on his car when cars were rare. They had a phone too and a permanent procession to use it and I still remember the number. In the next house down, the man was a mechanic with a oily stain on the driveway and across the road a milkman and beside him a binman. Work was about painting and mechanicing and lifting bins and building stuff. Work was smelly and physical and masculine and honest. There were no bosses living on our road, no fancy gates or ornamental gardens. There was no excel or paranoia and the men where huge and unafraid. We’d be racing round the block and they’d stop and see who was fast or fall in for a game of football. Mr O’Rourke was a cooper in Jamesons and got a bottle every fortnight. He loved playing cards, solo, and all the men used to go his house.
I don’t work and never have worked save that time in London or Stuggart when I shoved concrete around a summer. I’m part of the “cost of goods sold”, that part between the purchase price of raw materials and the selling price to the punter. Part of the labour and overhead, I’m a percentage calculation applied to something and added to something else to arrive at a selling price. I’m left behind after the profit is repatriated to sunny California. I’m not designed to do what it is they ask of me, optimizing and economizing, profit making and price reducing.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m lucky to have a gig right now, to be able to look after my family and live in this godforsaken country unlike those who have been fucked over and turfed out by the same system I work in , the optimizing and cost reducing bastard which pushes work further and further east.
Once I split my head on a slab of concrete and a workman carried me home in a wheel barrow, or so I was told. Workmen drive jack-hammers, the real ones without the earmuffs. Workmen climb scaffolding, saw timber and do plumbing. Workmen don’t evade issues or escalate, don’t meet to review, don’t blind cc and only tell enough. The commerce of work is not fear and loathing.